Tom Sturridge shares the stage Jake Gyllenhaal in their new Broadway production, A Sea Wall/ A Life, even though they appear in different plays.
The two headline Simon Stephens and Nick Payne’s Broadway show — a one of a kind experience where the two actors perform in two separate plays combined as one.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a more intimate relationship with another actor, even though we don’t — we barely share the stage,” Sturridge, 33, tells PEOPLE. “I think the unusual thing is that we rehearsed together the entire time so when he was doing his play, I would review it and vice versa. We just thought it was really important to see each other and know what we’re doing.”
He continues, “We wanted to have the same energy, like to get into our bones in the same way … there literally is no other person who has seen the show — who’s seen my performance more than him.”
In the two plays, both Sturridge and Gyllenhaal, 38, captivate the audience as they share their stories of love, life and loss, through raw individual monologues on a stripped-down, exposed brick stage that features just one sole desk and a piano.
Sturridge, whose character is a professional photographer in Sea Wall, admits that the idea of performing a 45-minute monologue and carrying out an entire act by himself was intimidating at first.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” he says before explaining how both plays embody a realism involving the actors breaking the fourth wall and openly conversing with the audience. “The strange thing about it is that you’re not pretending in a way that you normally are when you’re on stage.”
He continues, “Normally when you do a play, you have to tell a lie to yourself, which is the audience doesn’t exist and the audience has to pretend they don’t exist. Because we’re all in the room together and we’re facing each other, you can’t really make a mistake in the way that you could in a normal play.”
After a while, the monologue nerves wore off and the actor came to see his solo stage time as a “peaceful” experience — saying his favorite part of the show is connecting with the audience.
“It’s just the connection of the audience. I never experienced that anything like where you’re one little person up against the consciousness of a thousand people. It’s really beautiful to do that,” he explains.
The Tony Award nominee and Gyllenhaal invite the audience on two very different journeys with deep parallels — one of which is how much both characters love their wives.
“The thing that I think is unique about [each play] is that they’re both about two men who are absolutely in love with their wives and I think in theater normally, marriage is like portrayed as s— to be dramatic like because you need conflict,” he says. “But it’s really rare to watch two pieces about just two great relationships. That’s two people who f—ing love each other.”
Despite seeing each other perform hundreds of times, when asked if they would ever try to switch monologues, the actor says it’s best that he and the Brokeback Mountain star — who plays a soon-to-be father in A Life — stick to the script.
“No. There was a moment where we talked about it. But then we both came to the conclusion that who the f— wants to learn another monologue,” he laughs.
Sea Wall/ A Life is now playing at the Hudson Theatre.